Agencies at Diversity Conference Seek Diverse Talent


Continuing what we started in New York on Nov 8, yesterday Adrants and BDI held the second Ad Industry Diversity Job Fair and Leadership Conference in San Francisco, hosted by the Academy of Art in conjunction with BIG. Local and nationwide entities including Google, Modem Media, Draft FCB, Dieste and T3 (The Think Tank), showed up to trade paper with giddy be-suited candidates.

The set of pews and the wide church like set-up served as a good backdrop for what could be both parts keynote and sermon.

Larry Harris, EVP and Director of Integrated Marketing at DraftFCB, made a straightforward delivery on topics we expected to rise to the surface: the disparity of diversity in our industry, the changing face of marketing in the face of new media (iPods, internet, mobile phones, chip-reading billboards) and the importance of knowing what you want before leaping into the wild blue yonder. He also told an awesome story about how he infiltrated agency execs by pretending to be a message boy. "They let you right in!" he exclaimed.

Much of what Larry covered was revisited in the panel, which let loose a mindflow of experience and anecdotes. A big contributor to why the panel proved so rich was the variation of experience - Gay is a woman who built T-3 with her own two hands out of Austin; Rodney is a creative and witty agencyville Algier with a black perspective; and Larissa has a strong, warm and culture-oriented flair that speaks well for Dieste, which targets Spanish speakers and boasts robust agency-wide diversity, not merely in language but also in gender and sexual preference.

We've got a way to go in terms of escaping the catchy "chickens with asses plucked clean" metaphor, but it's safe to say the agencies of tomorrow won't be the Old Boy's Clubs of today.

Valuable tidbits popped out of the discourse as well. Rodney noted several times the "fast, fierce and fluid" nature of the internet, which has changed the creative landscape as well as competitive expectations for new recruits. Facebook (versus MySpace) was repeatedly mentioned as a rich resource for employee fact-checking and social networking. And agencies openly admit to Googling job candidates. Gay and Rodney oft repeated the importance of demonstrating integrity and humility on both resumes and social networking profiles.

Which led to the next unfortunate trend - the disparity in talent appearing in the future crop. Larry and Gay lamented it's hard to find creative, passionate thinkers, and their sentiments were echoed across the board. Panelists cited paltry starter salary, long starting hours, high turnovers, and more attractive offers from other fields drawing both talent and diversity away from advertising and marketing careers.

We considered this drought as Larry shot a question out at the audience: "What are you good at?"

We should all be able to answer that, or at least take a good shot. But having done our share of interviews, the responses were bland repetitions of what we learned at job fairs and career centers from when we hit job-courting age.

We know which suits to wear and how best to part our hair. We've learned to say things like, "I work hard until I get the job done" and "I'm a great mediator." We're paring down our social networking profiles out of concern that a recent drunken romp or our latent love of Marilyn Manson will come back to bite us in the ass.

The only question left to ask is, how does one demonstrate one's talent to the skeptical agency? And per Larry's mention that this industry rewards contrarians, how do you showcase your savvy out-of-the-box spark while remaining the starchy ideal candidate? Very carefully.

It looks like the first marketing job any candidate can expect to get is the biggest and the hardest - marketing yourself effectively enough to break the myriad barriers separating you from the outrageously-paid realization of the foosball fantasy job.

But based on what our panelists and keynote speaker said they had to do to be seen by the right people, it's certainly possible. Advertising is a fun and rewarding business in which to work. Yes, there's grunt work but it's a whole lot more fun that just about any other profession. Give it a shot.

by Angela Natividad    Mar-14-07   Click to Comment   
Topic: Agencies, Good, Industry Events, Opinion   

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I attended the Adrants/BDI job fair as a recruiter both in NYC and SF. I was extremely pleased with both events. As a HR Director at an ad agency, I must say that although it may seem bleak for some to find talent, our agency always seems to get the flowers out of weeds at diversity events and have once again struck gold at Adrants/BDI. I think agencies should take more consideration when looking at candidates. Having worked in both New York and in SF Bay Area ad agencies within the past 10 years, creative environments seem to support and thereby produce the same ole type of creatives. This trend is obviously one that needs to shift as well and, inevitabilty, just like it has in the past 40 years, it will. Change is great that way. The No-Assholes Rule (check out the book) suggests that agencies look for creative talent in a diverse image, not even race or religion specific, but intending to suggest not a cookie-cutter, self-comforting, usual suspect form and fashion that some HR people sometimes seem to embrace. I really believe that until recruiters start looking at the situation in a more vivid visual, by seeing the talent behind the individuals, having their creative director/managers participate in the process in support of finding this talent, only then will change be able to identify the gem talent that happens to come in the diverse package. Not all presents come gift wrapped with a big, red bow. Great creatives are not born, they are made (though egos may suggest otherwise) so it takes a little work for us to help this happen. If great creatives were born, none of us would have a recruiting concern in how and where to find them. I will say that after 25 years, I'm (finally) glad to see the industry appears to be making some positive movement forward, starting with supporting and embracing events that don't just surface chat about diversity. There are plenty of minorities looking to get into in advertising and marketing in key positions; all they need is an opportunity to do that and individuals truly in support of their craft of recruiting, development and mentoring. Just like Mosaic of the AAF and the 4A's MAIP program, imagine if you hadn't gotten your first opportunity, where would you be right now, particularly if daddy and mommy or grandpa didn't hand you a chance? Looking at the world through eyes other than the ones that service your own vision and service the vision to the consumers our clients serve is the real subject; trying to match that here would be a great start.

Posted by: S. Chisholm on March 14, 2007 3:45 PM